Faculty Profile

Dr. Matthew O’Brien

Dr. Matthew O'Brien profile large
Associate Professor of History

Dr. Matthew O’Brien has forged one career out of many interests: history, which he describes as “the narrative of human experience”; Ireland, the land of his ancestors; the Catholic commitment to social justice; and teaching. “I’ve been very blessed,” he says.

O’Brien was born in 1968, the sixth of seven children in an Irish-American family in Buffalo, New York. His mother and grandfather were school teachers; his father was a lawyer. “I almost went to law school,” says O’Brien, “but I thought if I did, I’d always wonder what life would have been like as a teacher.”

After a BA in history at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, O’Brien devoted one year to teaching seventh grade with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Jersey City, New Jersey. He attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning an MA in 1995 and a PhD in history in 2001.

O’Brien began teaching at Franciscan University in 2002. “I was attracted to its commitment to understanding the Catholic faith and tradition in the humanities and liberal arts.” His main academic interest is immigration, including the Irish diaspora in America. “Immigration is a fact of modern life,” he says. “It needs to be studied so that the rights and dignity of immigrants can be respected, as the Church teaches.”

Recently, O'Brien co-edited a collection of essays on Irish America in the middle decades of the twentieth century, titled After the Flood: Irish America 1945-1960, released in June 2009.

He and his wife, Gina, live in Pittsburgh and attend St. Mary of the Mount with their two children, Thomas and Julia. But even in the heart of Steelers country, O’Brien continues to root for his old hometown team, the Buffalo Bills.

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